Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Sabbath School Insights No. 6, Qtr 1-06

Special Insights No. 6

First Quarter 2006 Adult Sabbath School Lessons

“Families in the Family of God”

(Produced by the Editorial Board of the 1888 Message Study Committee)

“Wise Words for Families”


For close to 3000 years, these “wise words” of this Lesson in the book of Proverbs have been studied and pondered by God’s people. We are Seventh-day Adventists, people living in the “time of the end,” in the time of the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary, in the great Day of Atonement. If time in this sinful world were to go on another 3000 years, these words would still be “wise.” But we must look at them in the light of the “third angel’s message in verity,” to borrow Ellen White’s description of the message that “the Lord in His great mercy sent” to us in the 1888 era.


The word “atonement” means reconciliation, at-one-with. Those who await the coming of the Lord on this Day of Atonement want to be reconciled with all the members of their families. This calls for some tremendous miracles! No one of us is innately more righteous than others, so the problems of family disorientation and alienation are in reality our “corporate” problems as a church. It seems awkward to pray to the Lord for “at-one-ment” with Him if bitter alienation with family members haunts our prayers.


And let us speak with compassion; those who fortunately have been spared the bitterness of separation or divorce should thank the dear Lord, and sympathize with those who have not been so fortunate. Marital discord is an extremely heavy burden to carry! When we all “appear before the judgment seat of Christ” (2 Cor. 5:10), if we are married, we shall be standing there with our spouse. Does the Lord Jesus have some special help for us during this Day of Atonement, to prepare for that tense moment?


Yes, there is, in God’s promise to “send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the Lord” (Mal. 4:5). If your mental image of “Elijah” is that of a specialist in chopping off heads of priests of Baal, look again. When “he” comes he will specialize in ministries of reconciliation: “He shall turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers” (vs. 6). Such a work could not be successful unless there is also a turning of the hearts of husbands to their wives, and wives to their husbands. This cannot be a fear work, even though the concluding clause says, “lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” It gives the superficial impression of the greatest fear-driven movement in history; but it cannot be because fear never works the kind of “reconciliation” that is the subject of the great Day of Atonement. It’s “hearts” that are “turned,” and only love can do that kind of “turning.” And the only love that can work that stupendous miracle (which is greater than creation) is the love of Christ.


We conclude therefore that the coming of “Elijah” means the ministry of the experience of self being “crucified with Christ,” which in turn must mean the greatest uplifting of “Christ and Him crucified” that has ever been known on earth—and that of course will be the message of that fourth angel of Revelation 18:1-4. Then at last the “wise words for families” in the book of Proverbs will meet their ultimate in fruit-bearing.


Love, not fearful terror, will bring the “third angel’s message” home to wounded hearts.

Thank God our lesson authors discuss frankly the problems involved in the allurement of sexual attractions. Indeed, the temptation can be almost irresistible, under certain circumstances. “Almost,” because it is not irresistible. We have a Savior from that temptation, whether the temptation to sin is adultery for a married person, or fornication for one unmarried. But how can we have a Savior from sexual sin if He was never tempted by sexual temptation?


Just here is where the “dragon” who “deceiveth the whole world” has stepped in with his most successful lie: it’s the false doctrine that Jesus Himself in His incarnation took sinless human nature and therefore was never tempted sexually, and therefore cannot “succor them that are tempted” in this regard (cf. Heb. 2:9-18; 4:15). This false doctrine is Satan’s most successful ploy to bring sorrow to many human hearts.


The family is bitter wherein a husband or wife has yielded to that lure and has fallen. Suspicion and deep hatred often linger for years. Facing Christ in judgment becomes a horrendous thought. Children wonder what’s wrong, why the family isn’t happy.


It’s easy for “us” to condemn the wrongdoer; but the Savior who forgave and restored King David for his double sin of adultery and murder, still lives. The personal, private forgiveness for the guilty one is given to the one who receives it in the contrition and humility David has written about in Psalms 32 and 51; the healing for the estrangement can only be dearly acquired. It’s not a flippant, trivial gesture of pardon. But there’s where the long-promised Elijah comes in to the picture. Elijah is close to Christ, who was crucified (he ministered to Him on the Mount of Transfiguration, Mt 17:3). Healing for a wounded family is complementary to the deep rooted love that is in Christ’s forgiving those who murdered Him.


Forgiveness with healing in the family is not impossible; it’s just expensive. It is not too much to say that such expense becomes possible in this final Day of Atonement; expensive things that have never been possible in the past are now taking place in the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary. The work of cleansing goes down to deeper roots than ever before.


Our Lesson touches on the ministry of humor, which is a part of the Holy Spirit’s healing. Nor frivolity, no; it’s healthiness that comes with the gift of forgiveness and heart-cleansing. That elusive “merry heart” may seem impossible to realize; the wounds occasioned by infidelity are too deep and painful, scars are slow to heal. But be patient; above all, be believing in the goodness of the Lord. “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?” (Job 14:4). Only the Christ who drank the bitter cup to its dregs while on His cross. He can work miracles. But when He’s done, you won’t be praising your psychoanalyst; you’ll be praising Him.


Finally, thanks to the author of Psalm 31 for the portrait of the happiest woman in the world. If you been blest to have such a woman for your mother or your wife—praise God from whom all blessings flow!


(Friday’s page speaks of “support groups” being helpful. Let the Lord lead you to one. Don’t push Him. When they descend to become mutual tale-bearing clubs wherein they share salacious talk about sexual adventures, they become very dangerous).

Robert J. Wieland


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